Shaping Cities: Culture as Development Work

Malcolm Miles


Culture is (as Raymond Williams argued) a way of life, evidence
and expression of a set of mutable values produced in but also
conditioning people’s encounters with the world. The question, now,
is: what ways of encountering the world will produce sustainable urban
The challenge for policy and planning, then, is that change is
produced in everyday life and often despite policies developed in political,
social and cultural institutions to be delivered from a position of
authority. This is not to say that policies have not at times been progressive;
indeed, the planners and designers responsible for the concrete
housing projects on the peripheries of many European cities were
progressive, often socialists, and inspired by the modern promise that
a new society can be engineered through design. The difficulty is, as
Marvila demonstrates, it cannot be done through design alone, and
perhaps does not begin there at all. If social change is to take place,
perhaps it begins in a mutual interaction, a dialogic exchange in a space
between dwelling and the ways in which consciousness becomes formalised
in design or planning. Otherwise, in a separation of concept
from actuality, of art from life, and of design from the occupation of
space, is a hiatus in which fear and distrust are likely to grow. Opposition
then takes the form either of vandalism or a desperate resistance
which fails against the greater force of the dominant society or culture.

Palabras clave

Culture; Cities

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